A CONCEPT OF ORGANIZED SOCIETY AND ITS VARIETIES
A THOUGHTFUL RUMINATION
GURU GANESHAN, M.D.
Edited and modified by Shree Vinekar
WATCHING NATURE AND ANIMAL BEHAVIOR IS AN INTERESTING PURSUIT. ANIMAL GROUPS ESPECIALLY THE MAMMALS GIVE AN INSIGHT INTO THEIR GROUP ORGANIZATION.
THERE IS USUALLY AN ALPHA MALE AROUND WHOM THE GROUP IS ORGANIZED. THE GROUP AS A SMALL SOCIETY IS RUN SMOOTHLY AS LONG AS THE INDIVIDUALS IN THE GROUP ACCEPT THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES BORNE OUT OF THE GROUP INSTINCTS AND THERE IS NO COMPETING MALE! THERE IS ALWAYS A DOMINANT MALE AND FEMALE COUNTERPART WITH A SYSTEM OF HIERARCHY FOR THE REST OF THE GROUP.
THIS EXTENDS INTERESTINGLY TO HUMAN SOCIETIES ALSO WHEREIN THE GROUP ORGANIZATION CREATES CONFLICTS UNLIKE IN THE ANIMAL GROUPS WHERE AT LEAST SUPERFICIALLY THE ORGANIZATION LOOKS LIKE A SMOOTH RUNNING SYSTEM.
In the course of history, mankind has struggled hard to achieve a system devoid of dominance of individuals or groups of them over others. So many names are given to the concepts used to combat the selective dominance or to actually implement such dominance -nationalism, culture, religion, equal rights, etc., and once the people who use these concepts declare that they have achieved their goals, they tend to imperceptibly switch back to the old system they fought against. The only difference is that then emerge new players and new ways of dominance. Individuals are happy if they get the benefits out of the system regardless if they are the dominant ones or the dominated ones. Majority are usually content with the status quo.
An attempt to understand this phenomenon in the human nature naturally leads to a different perspective in understanding of the word, “DEMOCRACY.” This is a general term, and different political systems' using it makes it difficult to be defined in specific terms. Hence the abuse of this term often to mislead people.
Historically when other political systems were predominant, there were small pockets of 'democratic' systems that existed in many civilizations. In India, for example, there were small clans that practiced “DEMOCRACY" “where the chief of the clan was an elected official." How far the democratic rights of the individuals prevailed in such societies is not well known and should be an interesting field of study.
For the western world the Greek city-state democratic system is the guiding example. Somehow the idea of democracy as a western concept pervades the modern world. It is partly true in the sense that since the time of Renaissance the factors leading to French revolution showed that ideas of democracy related to the power of the common citizens (peoples' rule or peoples' government) were incorporated in the European political systems. In British Isles, 1215 A.D. is a landmark in history when Magna Carta was signed at Runnymede. However, many of the democratic countries in Europe ruthlessly adopted colonization as a foreign policy especially for Asia and Africa. Despite monarchy some system of democracy prevailed in many countries. When United States and Canada in western hemisphere were formed they adopted democratic system from the beginning of their formation. One must not presume, however, that these new world democracies were ideal and gave voting rights or rights to hold important office in the "ruling group" to minorites, African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Chinese Americans or even for the majority women from the outset. There was no universal franchise or suffrage in many so called democratic countries for couple of centuries. Even now the voting rights of the African Americans in the US require ratification every ten years. That reduces certain classes of citizens to the status of second class citizens. But, for the south and central Americas it was in essence colonial influence of dictatorship. It will not be wrong to say that all these democratic countries had their own limitations. Democratic principles including voting rights were given only to men belonging to privileged class while women and other classes were denied any democratic rights. Many of these countries priding themselves as stalwarts of democracy in essence and in spirit gladly accepted slavery as their divine rights and colonization of other countries, a lesser form of slavery, was quite acceptable to their sense of justice while denying voting rights to disadvantaged, uneducated, the poor and to all women in general in their own country while presenting themselves as "democracies" to the outside world. This has led to conflicts within the system and refinement of the concept of "democracy" occurred through social and political reforms that sometimes took more than hundred years to implement in action though accepted in principle. Examples are the women’s voting rights, civil liberties, etc.
This gives a complex and fluid picture of the concept of democracy and its practical applications. Hence the need to go into the evolution of this concept, its strengths and weaknesses. It is important for every citizen of any country to understand this complexity and fluidity of the concept of democracy in an objective way as the future of this world depends upon the contribution of this important social-political concept for the welfare of the people. Whether a true system of democracy -a utopian concept can be achieved universally or not is an open question that only the future can answer.
An approach to understand the concept of Democracy
Democracy is a part of human institutions; hence, essentially predicated upon human interaction. Thus defined, “democracy” can be seen as a specific form of “human interaction” with a unique process and content. As human beings are a product of nature, it is imperative to know how they organize themselves into societies and build up institutions to protect themselves. They are thinking beings and act as if they are independent of nature and as if they decide their own destiny. In their pursuit to form institutions, they think, analyze, debate, and create ideas and societies. In this they forget that they are guided by instincts given them by nature and they forget how instincts drive their thinking and analysis, wherein subjective factors rather than objective facts and assessments are used to influence others’ thinking. (See klishta and aklishta vritties in the previous article on "Historians' Pitfall- Cultural Miseducation" by Shree Vinekar on this web site.)
Economics and politics have offered so many theories for different societies without taking into account the instincts of human beings that nature has provided in the interactions of the society. The instincts help create wealth and peace concurrent with conflicts. This leads to instability and change in the society for good or worse. Economic and political theories devoid of attention to human factors that can influence outcomes have less predictive value though couched in mathematical models.
Similarly to understand the concept of democracy, human element should be included in the theoretical approach to understand this concept. In as much as it is essentially an interaction and participation of different groups in the society to sustain a democratic state.
A nation state based on a 'democratic constitution' has usually three exclusive components. The law making body with one or two chambers, a law adjudication body, the judiciary and the governing body, the government. (The legislative, judicial, and executive branches of the government.) This is a common knowledge. How these three component bodies are structured and how they function determines the nature and strength of democratic character of the state. All three components though seem to function independently can be manipulated in their formation in such a way as to make the 'democratic constitution’ only respected in letter but not in spirit. This is especially true if there are only few or weak democratic institutions to prevent the abuse of the constitution, its non function or defiance.
It is imperative to understand the factors and forces that are needed to sustain democratic values and functionality of democracy in a nation as well as a pervasive respect for the constitution of any democracy. As much as the political structure and constitution are important for a democratic state, the human element in its function is also very important. This factor, the 'human factor,' can make or break the democratic set up, if it is overlooked in the function of the state and hence 'democracy' becomes vulnerable to this factor if not reckoned with. An effort will be made to explore the specific factors in the human nature that could support the democratic society or sabotage the spirit of democracy.
There are many human factors that play a part in the human interaction. Essentially the instinct of self preservation becomes aberrant and turns into other negative factors like greed, power, urge for domination, etc. This leads to the other human follies like - corruption, manipulation, suppression, violence, and urges for annihilation of "others."
All these factors exist in any state, democratic or non democratic, in different proportions and effective at different times mildly or strongly in intensity. What little knowledge we have gained, by understanding human nature, needs to be applied in understanding human behavior and its negative effects on public institutions.
In nature every phenomenon involves a process in which opposite elements/factors interact. So any change brought about by a process has new elements /factors that impede the change. This is true of any economic and political system. This includes the democratic institutions. They are not exempt from this paradox. This results in any system to be realized and recognized as not perfect. And any viabale system is that which is sustained by identifying the contrary or negative elements/factors built into the system. Such recognition will prevent the degradation of democracy in such a manner that the system is protected from becoming nonfunctional. This is true of any democratic system.
Hence the discussion on Democracy should include discussion of these human factors. Such discussion would lead to a better understanding of democracy.
This will be elaborated with examples in the next part of this rumination.
End Part I